I’m writing this column from just outside Tampa Bay.
No, I didn’t win the half-time competition at Carrow Road. It’s a mini family reunion, happily in the warmth of Florida. (In part, and somewhat scarily, it’s to celebrate my ‘little’ goddaughter’s 30th birthday.)
I don’t know about the players, but I can certainly recommend a warm-weather break for fans over international weekend.
One thing I’m aware of from home is fans’ thoughts turning to our Player of the Season vote.
Not everyone is a fan of the award, but it’s been significant to me since my first City favourite, Hugh Curran, won it in 1968.
I won’t go into my contenders this time, which I suspect are pretty well the same as everyone else’s. It got me thinking, though, about the qualities we’re looking for in a POTS.
Footballing ability is an obvious one, and it would be a major surprise if our best player didn’t take away this year’s award. But it’s far from the full story.
If there’s one thread running through the choices we’ve made over the years, it’s that we’re looking for someone fully committed to the Canary shirt (even if he’s possibly not going to be wearing it next year). Someone who doesn’t leave anything out on the pitch.
That draws us to some obvious candidates whose physical commitment and spirit were there for all to see. From Duncan Forbes, through Robert Fleck and Iwan Roberts to the two G Holts, Gary and Grant.
Early in the play-off final of 2002 (the year he won POTS), Gary Holt picked up a nasty foot injury and saw his boot filing with blood. If he took off the boot for treatment, the trainers would probably force him to be substituted; so he just kept it on and continued.
That’s the stuff of Roy of the Rovers – and of Player of the Season.
Commitment can be obvious without being physical, though. Darren Huckerby didn’t win too many awards for his tackling, but we were happy to reciprocate his evident love for Norwich City. He did what he was good at; the buzz of anticipation when he received the ball was worth the entry money.
We know commitment and contribution when we see it, even if it’s expressed in different forms. Larger-than-life Duncan Forbes rightly won POTS – but just as rightly, so did his unassuming partner Dave Stringer.
Some POTSs are even further removed from the gung-ho Duncan Forbes mould. Perhaps the furthest removed was Martin Peters.
Peters was undoubtedly the most subtle and graceful player I’ve seen in a Canary shirt. That alone, though, wouldn’t have won him such a deep place in our hearts – still less made him one of the few multiple POTS winners.
For all his easy grace – similar to David Gower in cricket – you could be in no doubt that Peters was giving everything to the City cause. And would do anything the team required of him.
Some of his contribution was extraordinary. Early in a season, one of our central defenders was seriously injured. Peters – a World Cup winning wide midfielder – went into central defence for three months. Without demur or complaint. And was outstanding there.
Oh, Nelson Oliveira: if you only had a little of that attitude….
Occasionally we take a wider perspective. Wes wasn’t our best player last season. Yet the Pantheon of City greats, as recorded in the Barry Butler winners, wouldn’t have been complete without him. Like the Oscars sometimes awarded sentimentally to long-term deservers, it was the right decision.
Coming back to the present, we find ourselves of course in a challenging time. Many previous Players of the Season have been promptly sold; we’re probably in that situation again as we adjust to new financial realities.
Here’s the good news. Yes, we’re having to sell some of our key assets right now. But already I can see some candidates for next year’s Player of the Season. The well of heroes is not dry.
If you’re up for a challenge, try these Barry Butler trophy questions (without recourse to Google):
- Who are the eight players to win it more than once?
- Have the winners included more forwards, or defenders?
- Who is the only winner with a nationality beyond the British Isles?